Reading: What Really Matters vs. What Really Doesn’t

Oh reading. Once, you were a trusted friend, a welcome reprieve from reality. Now, you are nothing but a thorn in my side as I trudge laboriously through your pages, Post-It-ing each page with unnecessary information involving plot points, literary devices, and questions at the ruling of my dictator teacher. Raise your hand if you agree.

For some of you, maybe this whole super-annotation thing really works. Great for you. For those like me, here’s what you really need to know about your readings…

Remember what actually happens in the passage. Hopefully you can remember the most basic plot points by reading it the night before and/or day it’s due. If you can’t recall what actually happens, you’re screwed.

Come to class with a few questions, lit devices, etc. memorized and/or written down. Unless your teacher demands to see your work, you don’t actually have to annotate (wow!) but you should know a few of the things your teacher expects you to have found off the top of your head. Remember – unless your teacher is going to check your work you don’t have to annotate. Ask the first time you get a reading assignment whether or not annotations are required. Do your work accordingly (and my apologies to those of you who are forced to do painstaking annotations).

Be prepared to improv. It is a necessary skill, especially in discussions, and will save you many, many times…but more on that later.

Look. Why are you reading any book for your class? To prepare you for the AP Exam. The AP Exam doesn’t care (or even expect) you to know everything that happens in the book you write about. They only want to see that you can analyze the work effectively and remember enough of the plot to pass for a plausible reading of the text. Why waste your time trying to remember every little thing that happened when what you really need to know is how to analyze what happened?

In short, what really matters is that you can hone your skills to create stunning analyses. The reading comes second. You will spend the entire year fine-tuning how to analyze literary devices, identify symbols, write effectively, and think critically. Actually remembering what happened in the books you read is something you can (and absolutely should) Google the day before the AP Exam.

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Summer reading, while annoying and generally the bane of all students-enjoying-their-well-deserved-vacation’s existence, is still important. Not because the book will change your life, but because the first couple weeks of school (not counting the arbitrary getting-to-know-you first day) center around it. Make sure you know what your summer reading is, read it, and remember enough of it to get by.